Located in the most unlikely spot – a small alley between the touristy Rokin and the shopping lowlights of the Kalverstraat – lies the quietly brilliant Gartine.
The postage-stamp sized restaurant only has ten tables (room for just 20 guests in all) and bagging one for breakfast, lunch or “high-tea” involves booking ahead. But book you should, the founders are proponents of the slow food movement – their seasonal menu is based around the fruit, herbs and vegetables they pick daily from their kitchen garden and orchard; whipped-up in the tiny kitchen into deceptively simple and incredibly reasonable meals that are genuinely packed with flavour.
Lunch for me was home made apricot nut bread with rosemary and goat’s cheese cream accompanied by a completely revelatory winter carrot chutney. The breakfast is also enormously popular here but it’s the “Gartine high-tea” that many Amsterdammers say is best of all. Garden soups, savoury cakes and quiches made with vegetables picked that morning served alongside cocktails of lavender lemonade and pastries made with fruits and spices. This completely unpretentious couple are passionate about fresh seasonal produce and it shows.
But it’s not just the menu that delights. On my mid-Winter January visit there was a heady smell of fresh hyacinths scenting the room, the soft lighting cast by the vintage chandelier created a warm winter glow and the staff could not have been more welcoming and enthusiastic. Ask for one of the two tiny tables on the balcony for the best view, and take in the homely atmosphere as tasty treats are delivered on mismatched antique floral plates by the charming founders.
Unfortunately, what was once the city’s best kept secret has recently risen through the ranks to reach number 5 (of over 3000) on Tripadvisor’s “best Amsterdam restaurants”. As a result, there are now tourists booking tables weeks ahead. On my visit it was the only one of city’s lunchtime eateries packed to the rafters on a midweek January afternoon, although thankfully on this occasion it was full of locals rather than the American tourists currently trilling about it online. Gartine is only open Wednesday to Sunday 10am to 6pm – if you love good food served in a cosy, unpretentious atmosphere it’s an absolute must.